How to Avoid Unconscious Bias When Interviewing

Here in the recruitment world, we hear the words “unconscious bias” a lot – but what measures are you taking as an employer to avoid it slipping into your recruitment process? Have you educated yourself on how to avoid unconscious bias yet?

Because unconscious bias is exactly that – something we’re totally unaware of happening – it becomes an even trickier challenge to tackle. But it’s something which is finally taking centre stage, with staffing agencies like ourselves helping every step of the way. Unconscious biases can play heavily into interviewing and hiring, so it’s important to at least be aware of what your brain might be doing without your express permission. They can affect the way you interview, the techniques you employ, the questions you ask and, of course, who you end up interviewing altogether.

Whether you know it or not, it could be affecting your business’s talent pipeline. Here are some key points to consider, which could play a huge part in avoiding unconscious bias when hiring.

Know your key criteria beforehand

A tell-tale sign that we’re being influenced by an unconscious bias is when we begin overlooking any real or perceived ‘red flags’, despite acknowledging that they’re present. This is because our inherent belief systems, rightly or wrongly, try to help us make the decision we want to – whether that be because it’s the easier one, the more familiar, or otherwise.

By identifying beforehand what your top criteria are – the non-negotiables that an individual must have to be successful in this role – you can avoid this happening. Ultimately, it’s a case of knowing what you need (yes, need – not want) and being persistent in finding that person. This could be as simple as a combination of the right experience, knowledge and attitude, or maybe more specific with regards to industry qualifications or education. Whatever you’re looking for, if you begin to warm to someone who doesn’t fit that profile, look a little deeper as to why that may be happening.

Structure your interviews

Another smart tip on how to avoid unconscious bias while interviewing? Make sure your interviews follow a preordained structure.

That doesn’t mean it has to be a rigid conversation, but us humans love to chat. That free-flowing conversation, the very unstructured nature of some interviews, puts us at ease. We feel comfortable, more able to communicate, to be ourselves.

While none of the above are at all a bad thing… All things in good measure.

It’s in these more amenable, free-flowing exchanges that we begin to allow unconscious bias to slip into our thoughts; the questions we ask, the opinions we form and even the answers we give. Less structured interviews are a fantastic way to identify and understand a cultural fit, but could lead to misled hiring decisions. By structuring your interview (and, importantly, sticking to it throughout), we can help ourselves achieve what it is we came here to do: find the best, most capable person for this job.

Listen, communicate and be present

Listening skills are invaluable, period, but never more so than in an interview setting. That means no distractions (a mobile phone face down on the desk counts, FYI), no interruptions, and giving your full, undivided attention to the candidate you’re presented with. In any format. Telephone interview, video, face-to-face.

When we’re not listening properly, many of us fall into the trap of hearing only what we want – or don’t want – to hear. This is the perfect opportunity for those unconscious biases we don’t know we have to fill the gaps we missed.

And of course, it goes without saying – this final point? It’s good old, plain and simple manners. Professionalism.

If you’d like more help in how to avoid unconscious bias while interviewing, we’re here to provide that extra layer of qualification, experience and expertise. Let’s talk about your hiring strategy today.

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